From the Desk of Ellen Fisher - July/August 2010

Hail Storm

Last I wrote, I was all gung-ho about learning how to do home repairs. My birthday wish that I expressed in the last eZine did indeed come true, and I got a cool tool box (a bucket, really) as a gift. It was filled with not only tools, but all sorts of maintenance gadgets and gizmos. Before I had a chance to break a sweat (or sweat a toilet) and get my hands on any of the tools, we had a power outage as the result of a violent summer hail storm.

While foraging for flashlights in a pitch black closet, I remembered that, in my handy-dandy tool bucket, there was a flashlight that attaches to your head with a headband. (Maybe it should be called a headlight?) I grabbed it and put it on. I then went from room to room, and neighbor to neighbor, as a beacon of hope, dispensing candles and lights... and a bit of enlightenment, when necessary.

When I took a quick ride around the neighborhood to assess the damage made by the strong winds and golf ball-sized hail, I was amazed to see how many trees had fallen into the streets and onto lawns. There was even one house at the end of our block where a tree had gone through the roof.

The bottom line: we were without power for three long days and nights.

Looking back on it now, I see all the good that came from the storm. But in hour 5 or 6 of the outage, when it was time for my dad to be fed by his feeding tube that runs on electricity, all I could feel was panic. Rather than go to the hospital, my dad chose to go without food for the day. He may have been a bit hungry, but he was the only one in the house who slept well that night. You see, unlike me, with my ongoing private heat waves, he doesn't like air conditioning, and found this a nice reprieve.

The next morning, both my daughter and husband, usually morning dawdlers, dashed out bright and early to their air conditioned jobs. I found myself alone, at the kitchen table, milking (by this time the milk in the fridge had definitely gone bad) the last minutes out of my laptop battery.

My neighbor across the street, who miraculously still had power, invited me over for coffee and some battery recharging. How odd it was; usually his invitations are for libations and some lifestyle unwinding. This neighbor, along with the help of another, generously ran a series of electrical extension cords (I can only imagine how the Codes people would have reacted had they seen this orange snake) from his house to my refrigerator so we could replace my dad's meds that had gone bad.

The rest of day crawled by as I picked up huge sections of fallen tree limbs off the lawn, talked to insurance people on my cell phone, commiserated with neighbors, and checked with the electric company for updates. When we found out that it was going to be a minimum of one more night without power, I made an executive decision that the whole family (including my dad and his live-in caregiver) were going to our house at the shore. Normally, some of my siblings are at the beach house, but this time it was just us. What a shame! I had planned to make a grand entrance singing, "HAIL, HAIL, The gang's all here!" Instead, we just unpacked and collapsed without any fanfare. The air conditioning, electricity, and hot showers, however, were most glorious!

It's been a couple weeks since the storm and all the insurance adjusters have sent me their estimates. Our house needs many, many repairs, including a new roof.

So, after the 2-day tile-laying, home repair apprenticeship I had back in May, I was promoted to general contractor in June. My first day on the job, instead of reaching for my tool bucket, I grabbed the telephone, and made calls to contractors asking for bids. It's just as well, since I am a lot more comfortable with this tool than any in the bucket.

What's the business lesson in all of this? A simple adage we have all heard a million times: To do a job right, you must have the right tools. In my case, that tool is a Rolodex (I am sure there's a 21st century word for this, but I still use an old-fashioned, manual one) of people to contact. Because in all of life, it's not just who you know, but who your people know, and so on, up and down the chain.

Ellen Fisher, Publisher who HAILS from Havertown

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